CANNES, France - Dancer in the Dark, Danish director Lars Von Trier's controversial attempt to redefine the musical, won the Palme d'Or on Sunday at the Cannes Film Festival, despite savage attacks from some members of the U.S. press.
Dancer in the Dark's star, Icelandic pop singer Bjork, also won the best-actress award, even though Mr. Von Trier acknowledged at a news conference last week that she "doesn't act, she feels." In the film, Bjork plays a Czech immigrant factory worker in a rural American town who ends up on death row - a tragic story line that isn't the normal fodder for song-and-dance numbers.
In his acceptance speech, Mr. Von Trier alluded to the widely publicized tensions he has had with Bjork, who walked off the set several times during filming.
"Though I know she doesn't believe me, if you meet her, tell her I love her very much," he said.
The Palme d'Or was presented to Mr. Von Trier by Catherine Deneuve, the iconic French actress who had a supporting role in Dancer in the Dark.
Tony Leung, star of Hong Kong's In the Mood for Love, won the best-actor award. And the entire cast of La Noce, or The Wedding, won a special acting award. Directed by Pavel Lounguine, La Noce was the sole Russian entry in competition.
Devils on the Doorstep, a more than three-hour black-and-white Chinese film that prompted dozens of critics to flee during its first press screening, won the grand prize. Most critics who stayed praised the dramatic, action-packed final 30 minutes. The film was directed by Jiang Wen.
Edward Yang won the best-director award for Yi Yi, or A One and a Two. It, too, lasted for more than three hours and drew critical scorn (and almost no one attended the subsequent news conference). But the Taiwanese tale of a businessman's midlife crisis apparently impressed the Cannes jurors.
Nurse Betty, a dark comedy directed by American Neil LaBute and starring Renee Zellweger, won best screenplay for writers John C. Richards and James Flamberg.
The critically acclaimed and visually stunning Blackboards, from Iran,tied for the jury prize with Songs From the Second Floor, the first film in nine years from Swedish director Roy Andersson. The award for Blackboards was accepted by a weeping Samira Makhmalbaf, the 20-year-old director who was the youngest in the competition's history.
Iranian films also tied for Camera d'Or, or the Golden Camera, which is awarded to first-time directors. It was given to Hassan Yektapanah for Djomeh and to Bahman Ghobadi for A Time for Drunken Horses.
The choices of the jury, which was headed by French director Luc Besson, were bound to stir up more controversy about the Cannes Film Festival and its tendency to overlook critical favorites. This year, the jury ignored Joel and Ethan Coen's O Brother, Where Art Thou?; Liv Ullmann's Faithless, a Swedish tale about infidelity; and Aoyama Shinji's nearly four-hour black-and-white masterpiece, Eureka, which stunned critics during its screening in the waning days of the festival.
Throughout the event, The Hollywood Reporter delighted in pointing out that the winner of the coveted Palme d'Or has performed poorly at the U.S. box office in recent years. In fact, since 1997, no winner has even taken in $1 million. The box-office failures are Rosetta (1999), with $20,000; Eternity and a Day (1998), $80,000; and 1997 co-winners The Eel, with $400,000, and The Taste of Cherry, with $300,000.
Other members of this year's jury were American director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs), British actors Jeremy Irons and Kristin Scott Thomas, Italian director Mario Martone, French actress Nicole Garcia, Spanish actress Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, German actress Barbara Sukowa and writers Arundhati Roy of India and Patrick Modiano of France.